Category Archives: climate change bill

>Woefully Deficient In Leadership & Ingenuity


What I’ve been saying, courtesy of Krugman.


I have been meaning to do a post on our incredibly stupid U.S. Senate which failed to do anything on climate and energy legislation, and then Robert Redford went ahead and did it for me. Man, that is one awesome rant. Go read it now.

Here’s the part that got me:

In the middle of the biggest oil disaster in American history, the hottest summer on record, and a war with an oil-rich nation, this group of cynics blocked efforts to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation. This was the moment brimming with potential for new jobs, a more robust economy and cleaner environment — this bill would have guided America down a profoundly safer and more productive path.

So therefore, the Senate is left to vote on an anemic energy bill of such remarkably limited scope that it could have been passed during the Bush era.

Compare this to the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, and the “societal punch” it packed. The contrast is striking. Our cowardly U.S. Senate caved to Big Oil, even as oil gushed out of the sea floor and coastal regions reeled from the loss of their tourism and fishing industries.

How far we’ve fallen in 40 years. I’m angry, and so is Redford. He writes:

The elected officials who steered this turnaround have abdicated their responsibility to uphold our nation’s best interests, and have shown us, and the world, an America woefully deficient in both leadership and ingenuity.

Tough medicine, but true. And the truth is, we’ve been woefully deficient in these areas for years. It is, in fact, a reference to a larger, far more nefarious decline in American public life: our inability to solve our national problems.

For this discussion I direct readers to this heartbreaking Financial Times article, which I found courtesy of John Cole at Balloon Juice. It’s a depressing read, and I hate to start the week off on such a downer note, but it’s also terribly enlightening. For starters:

Nowadays in America, you have a smaller chance of swapping your lower income bracket for a higher one than in almost any other developed economy – even Britain on some measures. To invert the classic Horatio Alger stories, in today’s America if you are born in rags, you are likelier to stay in rags than in almost any corner of old Europe.


The barometer is economic. But the anger is human and increasingly political. “I have this gnawing feeling about the future of America,” says Spence. “When people lose the sense of optimism, things tend to get more volatile. The future I most fear for America is Latin American: a grossly unequal society that is prone to wild swings from populism to orthodoxy, which makes sensible government increasingly hard to imagine. Look at the Tea Party. People think it came from nowhere. While I don’t agree with their remedies, most Tea Party members are middle-class Americans who have been suffering silently for years.”

As for how we got here, the article presents several ideas: globalization, outsourcing, automation.


Then there are those, such as Paul Krugman, The New York Times columnist and Nobel prize winner, who blame it on politics, notably the conservative backlash which began when Ronald Reagan came to power in 1980, and which sped up the decline of unions and reversed the most progressive features of the US tax system.

Fewer than a tenth of American private sector workers now belong to a union. People in Europe and Canada are subjected to the same forces of globalisation and technology. But they belong to unions in larger numbers and their healthcare is publicly funded. More than half of household bankruptcies in the US are caused by a serious ­illness or accident.

I can buy that 20+ years of conservatism has caused our economic problems, but has it made us unable to solve them? Well, it’s certainly responsible for today’s political paralysis in Washington, where Republicans operate in lockstep to block everything and anything in an effort to sink a Democratic President.

But the Democrats don’t get off scott-free. They were handed clear majorities in the last two elections — the mandate Bush pretended he’d had. The fact is, they’ve failed to lead. They’ve failed to engage the American public. That we can’t pass climate and clean energy legislation in the midst of the worst oil spill in American history isn’t the fault of Republicans, it’s the fault of Democrats, including the President, for failing to make this a priority.

And if we can’t do this, right now, I fear we won’t be able to do anything at all.


Filed under climate change bill, economy, Gulf oil spill

>What BP Does Not Want You To See

>Shocking video from Philippe Cousteau Jr. and ABC News, a dolphin’s eye view of the oil spill in the Gulf:

Please call your Senators today and tell them we need to pass robust, meaningful legislation that finally gets us off of fossil fuels, so we never again have to witness a disaster like this. We’ve been hearing about how oil is a “transitional fuel” for 30 years (and President Obama repeated that tired line again today). No, it’s not “transitional,” not when your entire economy is still dependent on it, not after oil shocks like the Arab Oil Embargo and on and on. This isn’t transitional, this is a giveaway to multinational corporations trying to make gobs of money.



Filed under alternative energy, climate change bill

>China Does Climate Change Turnabout

>Conventional wisdom holds that China, now the world’s largest contributor of greenhouse gases, is also the biggest foot-dragger on climate change, refusing to place a cap on its greenhouse gas emmissions. (In fact, it seems this is a popular talking point among anti climate-change legislation folks.)

That seems to be changing, according to today’s Washington Post:

Yet, in visible and less visible ways, China has begun to address its emissions problem. The steps are driven in part by the parochial concern that climate change could worsen the flooding that plagues the country’s low-lying coastal regions, including Shanghai, and cause water shortages in western areas as glaciers in the Himalayas melt away.

But China has also begun to see energy efficiency and renewable energy as ingredients for the type of modern economy it wants to build, in part because it would make the nation’s energy sources more secure.

“We think this is a new business for us, not a burden,” said Gan Zhongxue, who left a job as a top U.S. scientist for the giant ABB Group to head up research and development at ENN, the Langfang company that made its fortune as the dominant natural gas distributor in 80 Chinese cities.

This makes sense, and is the argument we tree-hugging liberals have been making in the U.S. for years. It’s just good business. God hasn’t made dinosaurs in a few million years; oil is finite. We’re running out, the world is going to need a new energy source, so why not be leaders of the new energy economy instead of holding on to the past?

According to the Post, China’s government has taken steps to address climate change that put the American government to shame:

Still, China has taken significant steps in the past five years. It removed subsidies for motor fuel, which now costs more than it does in the United States; its fuel-efficiency standard for new urban vehicles is 36.7 miles per gallon, a level the United States will not reach for seven years. It has set high efficiency standards for new coal plants; the United States has none. It has set new energy-efficiency standards for buildings. It has targeted its 1,000 top emitters of greenhouse gases to boost energy efficiency by 20 percent. And it has shut down many older, inefficient industrial boilers and power plants.


Smaller details are getting attention, too. Xie said forcing supermarkets to charge for plastic bags reduced the use of the bags by two-thirds, saving the equivalent of about 30,000 barrels of oil a day.

Last week, the Paris-based International Energy Agency said the efforts are starting to pay off. The agency lowered its estimate of future Chinese greenhouse gas emissions.

This should set off alarm bells here in the States: if a behemoth like China is transitioning its economy toward a green future, we’d better scramble to catch up or we will be left behind.

Make no mistake, China has a long way to go. I suffer no delusions in that regard. But we can no longer hide our head in the sand and justify our own polluting ways by saying “China’s worse!”

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Filed under China, climate change, climate change bill, environment

>Climate Change Astroturf Group To Hold Nashville Forum

>Yesterday I blogged about the Consumer Energy Alliance, an astroturf organization connected to the oil industry-funded Institute for Energy Research.

Today I was forwarded an invite to a forum they’re hosting next Wednesday at the downtown Sheraton (as always, click on the pic to make it larger):

The CEA promises an “in depth discussion” on the impact of pending Federal climate change legislation. Since the CEA aren’t exactly honest brokers, presenting themselves as some kind of consumer organization when in fact they are part of the oil industry lobby, I think it’s safe to say they plan to spread a lot of half truths and misinformation.

Just a guess. I could be wrong!

They’ve been extremely aggressive in trying to get folks to attend this meeting, making lots of phone calls and personal visits to drum up attendance. In particular I hear they want public officials to attend, even (I hear) inviting Mayor Dean. So I thought we should all know what we’re getting into.

Their featured speaker is Tom Mullikin, whom they list as a “nationally recognized environmental attorney” and indeed his bio is impressive. What it doesn’t say is that Mr. Mullikin has made a name for himself speaking at Chamber of Commerce events around the country and spreading misinformation about climate change in the process.

To wit:

”I just try to lay out the facts.”

Those were the words of Tom Mullikin (lawyer and nationally known speaker) at a talk he gave sponsored by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce to a “crowded hall full of business and political leaders from across the state,” as printed in the Wichita Eagle. Mr. Mullikin went on to talk about how local efforts to curb the effects of coal plants on the environment are useless, listing “facts” about how man-made emissions only comprise 5.5 percent of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and that “Kansas homes, factories, cars, livestock and power plants… contribute just 0.013 percent of all greenhouse gases floating in the world’s atmosphere.”

This is not the first time I’ve heard these statements about percentages, and they are irrelevant. It is not the overall percentage of greenhouse gases represented by human activity that matters – what matters is how much the overall amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increases, and 5.5% is a significant amount. Just think of blood alcohol levels, or a glass of water filled to the brim – one more drop will make it overflow.

The other glaring piece of misinformation provided by Mullikin is the idea that changes and efforts on a local scale to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is futile. This notion is not only totally incorrect, it is irresponsible, and Mr. Mullikin should be ashamed for touting such nonsense.

According to this writer, Mullikin even claims that because China is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, there’s no point in Americans trying to reduce their carbon emissions. Which is the most twisted piece of logic I’ve ever heard.

Anyway, I suspect the CEA is hosting these events with the help of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (the Nashville Chamber, which is separate from the U.S. Chamber, knew nothing about it). Call it a gut instinct.

The Chamber is a little red-faced these days when it comes to the climate change issue. There was yesterday’s faux-press conference prank, and there have been a steady stream of businesses and utilities dumping their membership over the Chamber’s opposition to federal climate change legislation (Mohawk Paper joined the mass exodus today.)

Earlier this week, the U.S. Chamber was busted for hyper-inflating their membership. They seem now to concede that they represent 300,000, not 3 million, businesses, though no one seems to have let the Consumer Energy Alliance know: their bio for board member Bill Kovics, the U.S. Chamber’s VP of Energy, Technology & Regulatory affairs, still lists the higher membership number.

Anyway, it’s all very interesting and a little bit sleazy to me. You have an industry group pretending to be a consumer group holding a forum to spread misinformation about federal climate change legislation. They’ve been aggressive in trying to get public officials to attend, and I just want to say that if Mayor Dean or other public officials attend an anti-climate change event it would be a little embarassing, seeing as how Tennessee is trying to fashion itself as a regional leader in clean energy.

So, just a heads up, foks. But there IS a free lunch. I wonder if we can get some of downtown’s homeless through the door? I’d hate to see all that food go to waste.

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Filed under astroturfing, climate change bill, Consumer Energy Alliance, Nashville

>U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Gets Punked

>Hey, Koch Industries! We libs can lie about who we are in front of the media, too! Except when we do it, we have way more panache:

Will the real U.S. Chamber of Commerce please stand up?

Environmental activists held a hoax press conference Monday morning, pretending to be the business group — and pretending to announce that the chamber was dropping its opposition to climate-change legislation now in Congress.

The event, complete with fake handouts on chamber letterhead, at least a couple of fake reporters, and a podium adorned with the chamber logo, broke up when a spokesman from the real chamber burst in.

Oh, noes! Who are these merry pranksters? Why the Yes Men, of course. They’ve punked all sorts of high-falutin’ folks, like the World Trade Organization, Dow Chemical, GO-EXPO, and more.

But Monday’s prank nearly errupted in fisticuffs as someone with the real Chamber of Commerce showed up to confront the imposters. But when reporters asked him the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s position on climate change, and if they believed it did not exist, he dodged the questions.

Watch the video:

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Filed under climate change bill, the yes men, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

>Consumer Energy Alliance: Another Astroturf Front Group

>Via Kleinheider we learn of yet another fake “grassroots” organization targeting climate change legislation. This one calls itself the Consumer Energy Alliance and it is now running TV ads in Tennessee telling us scary things about low carbon fuel standards.

I asked the Great Gazoogle to tell me more about the Consumer Energy Alliance and it told me the only “consumers” allied with this professional astroturfing outfit are those duped into believing it’s not a cleverly disguised bunch of K-Street lobbyists for the oil industry.

But I did my own research. I followed the linky-links from the Consumer Energy Alliance’s website. The LCFS campaign website is “” I looked at their contact list and got this:

I did a check on the phone number and found it is the main number for the Institute For Energy Research. Chris Tucker, the press contact for SecureOurFuels (and Consumer Energy Alliance, as his e-mail address indicates), is also listed as the press contact for the IER.

And who is the IER? The IER board consists of the usual petroleum/energy industry suspects and American Enterprise Institute scoundrels. Folks like Preston Marshall, president of oil exploration company MarOpCo (of the creepy old bazillionaire-who-married-Anna-Nicole-Smith Marshalls).

And Wayne Gable, Managing Director of Federal Affairs for Koch Industries. Ah, it always comes back to Koch Industries, doesn’t it?

Gable is also president of the Charles G. Koch Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Foundation. According to Wikipedia the Lambe Foundation funds…. you guessed it … the Institute for Energy Research.

I have one question: what will happen when Koch Industries runs out of money?

Of course, you just need to look through the Consumer Energy Alliance’s publications list to see lots of pro-drilling titles and know these folks are fossil fuel industry shills.

Or, as Grist noted in 2006:

The Institute for Energy Research, incidentally, “articulates free-market positions that respect private property rights and promote efficient outcomes for energy consumers and producers.” Its director, Robert Bradley, wrote “Global Warming Concerns Are False Alarm” and “Renewable Energy: Not Cheap, Not ‘Green’.” ….

So, to recap: We have the Consumer Energy Alliance running TV ads fighting a part of the climate change bill that encourages alternative energy use. The Consumer Energy Alliance is part of the Institute for Energy Research, which is a front group for the oil and gas industry.

Can we say we are surprised? Not me.

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Filed under astroturfing, climate change bill, Consumer Energy Alliance, Energy Alliance

>A Word On The Climate Change Bill

>Despite the astroturf rallies and forged letters from the ACCCE, climate change legislation has taken a big jump forward. Senators John Kerry and Lindsey Graham are co-sponsoring a Senate bill, and even Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has signaled support, which frankly is a bit of a surprise.

It’s actually starting to look like climate change legislation might be an easier sell than the healthcare bill, thanks to a new bipartisan support for nuclear energy. I’m personally not a fan of nuclear energy because, among other things, we have yet to figure out what to do with the waste. At its essence, the climate change issue is a waste issue. There’s no changing the laws of physics and when it comes to producing power–excuse the pun–shit happens. You can spew stuff in the air or hold it in leaky detention ponds or try to store it underground in a salt mine but you will have to deal with it eventually. And the stuff left over from nuke plants is more dangerous than anything else.

Mostly I’m worried folks seem to think we can keep storing spent nuclear fuel for a few more decades until we figure out some magic bullet to deal with it. Doesn’t that sound a lot like the pollution issue which has led to our whole climate change problem?

While I personally have my doubts about the practicality and affordability of nuclear energy, if we’re going to forge ahead into a new future of electric cars and smart grids and personal jet-packs, we’re going to need more power production. So before we hand a big bailout to the utilities in the interest of arresting climate change can we at least write something into the bill that addresses the waste issue? Because I really don’t want to be having this same discussion in 40 years about what to do with all of those leaky radioactive nuclear fuel rods.

Just a thought.

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Filed under climate change bill, nuclear energy